Home
We pick the best brakes, wheels, tyres and other essential upgrades for your road bike

So here it is, the final instalment in our series of articles commemorating the best bikes, accessories and clothing we’ve tested in the past year. Today we pick 15 of the best cycling products reviewed in 2015. We’re talking here about common upgrades such as wheels, tyres, handlebars and pedals.

We’ve linked through to retailers in the heading, plus you can read the full in-depth review for each product as well, just follow the link below the description. Why are these products here? They represent the best-reviewed products testing during 2015, and they're all available in the shops now.

- road.cc Bike of the Year 2015-16

We’ve tested a lot of very high-quality products this past year. This article aims to provide a list of interesting components in different categories and price points, with an eye on value for money, as well as performance for the intended purpose. Something for everyone, we hope.

There have been some notable trends this year. Rims and tyres are getting wider. Tubeless technology is maturing, slowly becoming more popular with cyclists. Power meters are getting more affordable. And there are more disc brakes as well, and there'll be even more this year for us to review.

TRP Spyre SLC Mechanical Disc Brakes £89.99Spyre SLC Mechanical Disc Brakes £89.99

TRP Spyre Mechanical Disc Brakes

TRP Spyre Mechanical Disc Brakes

In the tidal wave of new disc bike drop bar bikes appearing on the market, the Spyre has become the benchmark for ease of setup, use and reliability. They’re much less expensive than hydraulic brakes but the performance is excellent, among the best mechanical disc brakes currently available. There is a clear bite point and plenty of modulation for when you are looking to just scrub a bit of speed, regardless of being on or off-road. Really good performance for the money and cheaper than a full hydraulic system.Spyre has become the benchmark for ease of setup, use and reliability. They’re much less expensive than hydraulic brakes but the performance is excellent, among the best mechanical disc brakes currently available. There is a clear bite point and plenty of modulation for when you are looking to just scrub a bit of speed, regardless of being on or off-road. Really good performance for the money and cheaper than a full hydraulic system.

Read our review

Continental Grand Prix 4000s II 28mm tyres £49.95

Continental Grandprix 4000s II 28mm.jpg

Continental Grandprix 4000s II 28mm.jpg

Tyres are getting bigger, and the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II 28mm is a great example of why this is A Good Thing. At 266g per end (claimed 260g) it's heavier than the 25mm (claimed 225g) and 23mm (claimed 215g) but the plus side is that the air chamber is much bigger than the smaller tyres, and you can run it at a lower pressure. Out on the road, they feel extremely smooth and fast. Continental's Vectran breaker does a pretty good job of resisting any unwelcome intrusions.

Read our review

Pro-Lite Bortola A21 wheelset £349.99

Pro-Lite Bortola A21 wheelset

Pro-Lite Bortola A21 wheelset

The Bortolas keep the light weight and stiffness of the well-received Bracciano but add tubeless capability and wider rims. The 1540g weight is impressive for an aluminium wheelset even if that is about 65g over the claimed weight. The Bartolas pick up speed quickly thanks to a svelte rim and make climbing a joy especially giving a little out of the saddle dig on a steep section. Overall the Bortolas are perfect all rounder wheels.

Read our review

SRAM Rival 1 £922

sram rival 1 first ride2

sram rival 1 first ride2

SRAM's Rival 1 groupset offers shifting simplicity, a usable range of gears, powerful disc brakes and secure chain retention. It has no direct rival from Shimano or Campagnolo, although home-brewed single-ring drivetrains have been popular in some areas of cycling for a few years now, but SRAM brings plenty of technology to the table that makes it easy to ditch the front mech and go 1x11. It's not for everyone, but there are many cyclists and applications that this new groupset would be ideal for. 

Read our review

Bontrager Race Lite Aero handlebars £69.99

Bontrager Race Lite Aero handlebars

Bontrager Race Lite Aero handlebars

The Bontrager Race Lite Aero Handlebars are one of the cheapest aero road bars that money can buy. In terms of shape, the bars have a flattened top and a clamping area wider than many other aero bars on the market. We particularly like this as it allows for either clip on TT bars or out front computer mounts and even a front light. Changing your stock handlebar is a really simple upgrade so if you want more comfort, a different fit or more aerodynamics, this bar is worth a look.

Read our review

3T Arx II Pro Stem £52.99

3T ARX II Pro stem

3T ARX II Pro stem

3T's Arx II Pro stem is an evolution of its Arx Pro stem. It uses a standard alloy shaft and a similar faceplate to the previous design, with the cutout 3T logo, but the shape has been refined a bit and the look is a little more sculpted. Given that you can pick up this stem up for about £30 online and you're only adding about 40g over even the very lightest stems that cost many times as much, it seems like a sensible place to spend your money. Even at full retail, it would be a decent buy. 

Read our review

Garmin Vector 2 pedals £1,199.99

Garmin Vector 2S pedals

Garmin Vector 2S pedals

PoGarmin's Vector 2 is the second incarnation of its pedal-based power measurement system. The changes to the system are fairly minor, but they are improvements, making the pedals easier to set up and switch between bikes. Yes, they’re expensive but you get a tonne of data and they’re really easy to install to your bike. 

Read our review

Fabric Line Elite saddle £39.99

Fabric Line saddle - 3

Fabric Line saddle - 3

The Line is Fabric's newest saddle, the first from the Somerset-based company with a pressure-relieving channel design, and it's every bit as comfortable as the Fabric Scoop on which this one is based. The padding is firm but provides enough cushioning: I found it more than adequate on a five-hour weekend ride. There's a bit of flex in the nylon base and the chromoly rails, which helps to dissipate some of the shocks caused when riding over rough surfaces.

Read our review

Schwalbe S-One tubeless tyre £56.99

Schwalbe S-One tyre.jpg

Schwalbe S-One tyre.jpg

Tubeless tyres are slowing gaining traction in the cycling world, and German company Schwalbe has been rapidly developing a line of high-performance tyres that allow you to enjoy the benefits of ditching the inner tube (fewer punctures, less weight and lower pressures). The S-One is the newest, a 30mm tyre with a dimpled tread pattern, and its performance blew us away. They melt around the smallest of road protrusions, giving not only the aforementioned proverbial-to-a-blanket braking performance but also supreme comfort. Dial in your pressure and road buzz all but vanishes. That's not to say that you can't feel what's going on down there, you just get the message without being jackhammered.

Read our review

Stan's NoTubes ZTR Grail Team Wheelset £495

Stans NoTubes ZTR Grail Disc Wheelset

Stans NoTubes ZTR Grail Disc Wheelset

Stan's NoTubes ZTR Grail Team wheelset is one of a new generation of disc brake-specific offerings with a wide (in this case 21mm internal width) rim, ensuring that it appeals to the growing number of disc brake-equipped road/gravel/adventure bikes designed for wider tyres than is the norm on race bikes.When tubeless is this easy, you really won't go back to inner tubes, with the wheels supplied with rim tape and tubeless valves. The wheels are bombproof and they’re a decent weight and price.

Read our review

Zipp Tangente Speed tyres £49.00

Zipp Tangente Speed tires

Zipp Tangente Speed tires

Zipp doesn’t just makes wheels, it also produces tyres. It updated its offerings in 2015 and the Tangente Speed, a race-day tyres with 25mm version weighing just 196g, providing a very responsive and fast rolling performance, ideal for racing and Sunday best bikes.

Read our review

Lightweight Meilenstein tubular wheelset £3,199

Lightweight Meilenstein wheelset

Lightweight Meilenstein wheelset

The best upgrade you can make to your bike is a new set of wheels, and there aren’t many wheels do inject as much performance as Lightweight’s Meilenstein tubular wheels. They are also incredibly expensive, but they’re also impressively light, just 1,120g for the pair. As you’d imagine, the performance is exceptional out on the road. So, incredibly light and stiff carbon wheels with an exceptional performance, but the price makes them unattainable for nearly all.

Read our review

Miche Supertype Guarnitura Crankset £499

Miche Supertype Guarnitura Crankset

Miche Supertype Guarnitura Crankset

Supertype is Miche's top range of kit sitting at the Campagnolo Record, Shimano Dura-Ace sort of pricing level with weight and performance to match. The cranks are carbon fibre using a hollow construction, therefore, providing the stiffness while keeping the weight down to 673g. Shifting is very precise thanks to the usual collection of ramps and shifting pins. The matching Supertype Evo Max bottom bracket is also a nice bit of kit with smooth running bearings and easy fitting. It’s a welcome alternative to the top three brands with performance to back up the price.

Read our review

Radial Cycles Grippy bar tape £9.99

Radial Cycles Radial gel bar tape - black

Radial Cycles Radial gel bar tape - black

Radial Cycles' Grippy bar tape gives you pretty much everything you might expect from a £20 bar tape for a tenner. It's great. Standard cork tape will cost you eight quid and this stuff is miles better for hardly anymore.

Read our review

Hunt Race Season Aero Wide wheelset £459

Hunt Race Season Aero Wide wheelset

Hunt Race Season Aero Wide wheelset

Wheels are one of the most common upgrades to a stock bike, and at the sub-£500 mark, there are a lot of good wheels to choose from. Now there's one more: the Hunt Race Season Aero Wide wheelset, an excellent choice. These wheels are light, stiff and well made. Tipping the road.cc scales at 1,480g – exactly what the Hunt website claims they should be – the Race Season Aero Wide is a wheelset that's designed to be a good all-rounder for training and racing.

Read our review

In case you missed them...

Here is the Best Cycling Accessories of the Year 2015/16 and the Best Cycle Clothing of the Year 2015/16, essential reading if you're in the market to buy some new parts and accessories for your road bike this year. 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

7 comments

Avatar
gonedownhill [130 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Sorry to be the tosser who questions the choices, but what exactly is so great about that stem that makes it worthy of recommendation- is there actually much difference between that one and any other alloy one? I just bought a Deda Zero 2 (cheapest I could find on the particular online retailer I was buying other stuff from) which was half the price whether comparing list or discounted price, and is almost exactly the same weight. Can anyone actually tell the difference between two alloy stems?

 

 

Avatar
Tjuice [226 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
gonedownhill wrote:

Can anyone actually tell the difference between two alloy stems?

I've wondered the same thing too.

Seems you can get relatively light stems that cost from ~£10-20 to more than ten times that.  Granted there is the weight weenie perspective for someone looking to get the very lightest bike, but I can make clothing / water bottle / repair tools / gel or food choices on any given day that have a weight impact greater than the difference between any two reasonable stems. And in any case, because of my short body compared to my limbs, I already save weight by having a stem 20-30mm shorter than the 'norm'

For normal mortals, does price of stem correlate with significantly improved stiffness / responsiveness / control / reduction of road vibration?

 

Avatar
David Arthur @d... [742 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Because it's a roundup of the best products we've tested in 2015, not a review of every single stem on the market

Avatar
jralong [8 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
David Arthur @davearthur wrote:

Because it's a roundup of the best products we've tested in 2015, not a review of every single stem on the market

 

I think whathe was getting at, more that questioning your chioce to include a specific stem, was what aspects of a stem (any stem) make it better or worse than another beyond weight. 

It's something I've wondered before as well, as I've never had the means to test it out. Unlike many other components, such as the handlebars, it is very tough to tell if it has any effect on the ride (ignoring, of course, the possibility of changing the length and rise).

Is there some sort of stiffness, or other benefit, we could expect to acheive by changing stem (again, ignoring a change in length or rise) or should we all stick to what everyone is probably doing anyway and buying the one that matches our bike the best?

Avatar
DaveE128 [787 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

The Spyre is so good, we'll tell you all about it several times?  3

Are you sure they're cheaper than hydraulics?  3

Avatar
dafyddp [417 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I've got TRP HyRd on my Genesis CdF which as far as I can see are the next step up from the Sryres in the TRP range.  After six months, I've done 1500 miles, about 15-20% I guess of which has been off-road/bridleways. After that time/distance the bite is pretty poor and damp. I've changed the pads which helped a bit, but I'm a lot less impressed than I expected to be.

Avatar
Tjuice [226 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
jralong wrote:

I think whathe was getting at, more that questioning your chioce to include a specific stem, was what aspects of a stem (any stem) make it better or worse than another beyond weight.

Yes, that's right.  Seems no further perspective on that has been offered, but I am still curious.

When I bought my race bike (2009 BMC Racemaster SLX01), it came with a stem that was too long for me (I have long limbs, but in comparison a very short body and like a pretty big saddle-bar drop of ~5.5 inches).  I bought a shorter, dirt cheap, second hand stem on eBay just to trial a shorter length stem.  I think it might even be a mountain bike stem.

But I have never removed it!  Am I missing out massively by not having something fancier / lighter / road focused?  It's utterly bombproof, so clearly not the lightest stem I could get, but I don't believe I'd notice the weight difference between this and something that weighs 80g less (e.g., the Fizik Cyrano R1 - RRP £90).  That's the weight of two High5 EnergyGel+ sachets.

But I must surely be missing out on something...  I just don't know what it is!